“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” ~ Lao Tzu
We are coming to the end of 2016 and this is when I find time to reflect on the past year, so that I can look at the current direction of my life and see if that is where I want to continue heading or if I need to adjust and change the course.
At the end of the year I always reflect and journal about the past year. I focus on:
I answer these questions and reflect on what is most important and then I come up with a short statement or acronym for what I want to focus on for the upcoming year. It is not a resolution, but an affirmation of what matters in my life and where I want to put my attention so that I will focus my energy on what really matters most to me. In this way, I will end up where I am heading. After I have answered the questions for this year, I go back and review the answers from the previous years. I see where my focus has shifted and stayed the same on this journey in life.
One of my favorite parts of this exercise is to look back at the books that impacted me the most. In some ways these books taught me life lessons, evoked emotions in me or made me look at life from another perspective. Here is my list for 2016:
Please share the books that impacted you the most in 2016 so we can all learn about great books.
What matters most in your life that you want to focus your attention on for 2017?
“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” ~ Zig Ziglar
After realizing that I was rushing to decorate my tree, I came back to the present moment and chose to unwrap each ornament with awe and appreciation. When I slowed down, I understood how very fortunate I am and how grateful I am for all of the wonderful people and experiences I have in my life.
One of the first ornaments I unwrapped was from my colleagues at work. Joanie always organized the Wetmore staff ornament exchange. I am so grateful that she took the time to make our annual potluck so much fun and I have so many treasured ornaments from the yearly exchange. My co-workers also gave amazing ornaments. Sue always had her mom make these beautiful home made needle point ornaments, magnets and hangings. It makes me smile every year when I hang them. Sheri, who gives Martha Stewart a run for her money, gave me this stunning wine bottle filled with Christmas lights and my heart lights up when I plug it in. My good friend Margaret created an exquisite glass blown ornament at the Sonoran Glass School that I deeply love. Then I joined Connie’s group that went each year to the glass studio and it became a family affair with Amber and Chuck creating enchanting glass ornaments and a tree topper. And speaking of glass, my wonderful pledge daughter Karen made this gorgeous stained glass tree and I love hanging it in a window each Christmas. My stepmother Carolyn went above and beyond and sewed Wizard of Oz ornaments that are my favorites to hang on the tree as they have very elaborate details and decorations sewn into them. Vicki made blown eggs that are delicate and intricately painted and Marion made the most amazing snowman from the base of the soda bottle and decorated with hats, scarves and accessories. I am so grateful for my talented friends that shared their gifts and love with me. It makes my tree that much more special because it is filled with the love of family and friends.
The holidays are a perfect time to begin or expand a gratitude practice. As part of my daily Chopra Center meditation, I ask the question “what am I grateful for?” prior to meditation. So at least twice a day, I am thinking about all of the people and things I am grateful for in my life. Many people journal about what they are grateful for or end each day by thinking of three things they are grateful for. Studies are showing that having a gratitude practice is beneficial and improves your sense of well-being. When you are grateful for things in your life, your start to see more things to be grateful for and you are happier and less depressed. Gratitude helps you cope with stress because you have a well of positive thoughts to draw from and a gratitude practice strengthens relationships. May we all find time to honor, affirm and appreciate the positive things and people in life.
Do you have a gratitude practice? Share it with us.
How can you expand your gratitude practice this holiday and next year?
“Be here now. Be someplace else later.” – David Bader
In continuing with the theme to live in the present moment this holiday season, I was again reminded of the need to follow David Bader’s quote to be where I am in the moment and not think about something else or somewhere else. Sunday morning, I was getting all of the holiday decorations out and planning to decorate the tree and house. In the back of my mind crept the thought that I needed to be at a concert in a few hours and so I needed to hurry to get everything done in time to clean up and get ready for the concert. So, I started to rush and all of a sudden I realized I wasn’t enjoying decorating for Christmas. I know that awareness is the key, so I brought my attention back to the present moment and my purpose. I made a conscious choice to be decorating in my living room now and I would be at the concert later in the day. I wanted to enjoy the process of decorating the tree. So, I unwrapped each decoration with love and excitement as the memories rushed back of when I received the ornament and from whom. I untangled the lights with patience (that really works better than frustration) and I was in awe as they glimmered on the tree. I danced to the Christmas music and even at one point danced with the broom after I swept the pine needles off the floor. I went slow, paused between each action, and really savored each moment. Decorating the tree was so much more joyful when I was living in the present instead of thinking about a future activity. And, as always happens, when I live in the present moment and am not worried about the future there was plenty of time. I got everything decorated without rushing and enjoyed the concert even more because I came from a place of peace because I hadn’t rushed.
My friend, Angela Bell Julien, has a new book out called Trees Don't Rush. She is a talented artist and gifted author that reminds us that time is everywhere and we should take our cues from nature; she states, “Nature doesn't hurry; it takes the time necessary to sculpt the greatest canyons and to bloom the most fragile blossom, and the world waits.” I will apply this philosophy of not rushing with all of my holiday activities. Angie has a book signing this Saturday, December 17th in Tucson at the Foothills Mall Barnes and Noble from 1:00-3:00 PM. Her signed book would be a great present.
Wrapping presents is not one of my favorite things to do. I think it has to do with the fact that as part of a Girl Scout opportunity in high school, I volunteered at Sears and I had to wrap all of the fake presents that went under the trees in the store. Hours upon hours of wrapping empty boxes dampened my wrapping spirit. However, this year, when I wrapped the presents, I just wrapped the presents and I wasn't thinking about anything else. Wrapping presents wasn’t a thing to get checked off my to do list, but I enjoyed selecting the wrapping paper, curling the ribbons and I sent love to the recipients of the gifts; I enjoyed wrapping presents this year more than I ever have in the past.
My holiday mantra for each task is
I vow to be here now and someplace else later in my body and mind.
Do you ever find yourself thinking or worrying about something else when you are in the middle of your holiday preparations?
If yes, how can you avoid rushing and live in the present moment?
“To offer no resistance to life is to be in a state of grace, ease, and lightness… Realize deeply that the present moment is all you ever have. Make the Now the primary focus of your life.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
When I was young I was clumsy - I would trip and fall a lot and my family sarcastically called me “Grace.” What I have learned from a meditation and mindfulness practice was that I wasn’t clumsy at all; I was just not living in the present moment. Now, when I trip or stumble, I realize it is because I am rushing and not paying attention in the present moment and I invite grace into my life. I stop; I take a deep breath, slow down and come back to this moment.
Recently, I have noticed that I have been running into things, tripping and getting paper cuts. I realized that I had unconsciously entered the holiday rush. I was rushing from one activity to the next and in that rush I was stumbling, crashing and hurting myself. I was not only injuring myself physically with bruises and cuts, but the hurried pace were causing me to lose the peaceful state of mind that I treasure.
My gifted and spiritual yoga instructor and yoga therapist, Mary Carhuff, provides her students with a “heart rock” intention card each year. She captures a stunning image of a rock or rocks in the shape of a heart and inscribes an intention we focus on for the year. This year the intention is Grace and Strength. During this holiday season, whenever I become aware that I am racing from one thing on my to do list to the next, I will stop and take a deep breath and fill by body, mind and spirit with grace and strength. I will remember the true meaning of the holiday season and come from a place of peace and love. May you find grace and strength this holiday season and throughout the coming year.
Do you have things that happen in your life, like tripping, that make you aware that you are not living in the present moment? How can you use these signs to bring your focus to the Now?
How can you bring more grace, strength, and love into your life for the holidays and coming year?
Peggy Steffens is an artist and Chopra Certified Meditation Instructor
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